For the second time in as many years a SCAD student (Jennifer Brogger - check her out!) has reached out to me asking a series of questions for a final project. The first time I thought it was just an anomaly, so I was pleasantly shocked when I was contacted a second time. It made me realize that there isn't a whole lot of information out there about being an illustrator and now I may actually have something worthwhile to blog about!
I'll answer all the questions I was asked by the SCAD students one by one, each in their own blog post. If you have additional questions feel free to email your question to me (via my contact page) and I'll answer them too.
How did you establish yourself as an illustrator?
I started by calling myself an illustrator. Seriously, it's the first step. You've got to have balls in this industry or you won't get far. And, I figured, if I start telling everyone I'm an illustrator, I'd actually have to make it happen or I'd end up looking like the "foolish, immature, starving artist" (almost) everyone thought I'd become - pride is a great motivator. Then I took out an ad in the Directory of Illustrators and got a gig. I am making that sound too easy. It was also a lot of waiting, luck, and talent (not to toot my own horn or anything). That still sounds pretty simple. Honestly, I did get lucky. I was still working full time as the designer for the Museum of the Rockies, so I wasn't emailing art directors or promoting myself in any other way. I know illustrators out there who will tell you they spent years promoting themselves before getting results. It's different for everyone.*
My first gig was huge - a national campaign for an international brand working with Ogilvy & Mather in Chicago. WHAT THE WHAT?!?
It also came at the perfect time. I was completely frustrated at work - I had plateaued at the Museum. I was only 25 and I knew I had a lot more to learn and do. I was looking for the next step in my career and suddenly I was staring at an email from an art buyer asking for a bid. I was terrified of messing this opportunity up because I had no idea what I was doing, so I fantically emailed and called the few professors I have stayed in contact with over the years. Every one of them answered all my questions, encouraged me, calmed me down and cheered me on. I am forever endebted to each and every one of them.
I ended up winning the bid and I worked my ass off. The art directors I worked with were amazing and I sincerely hope I get to work with them again (even on something small - they were just really wonderful). It was my goal to make the art directors look great when they went in to meet with the client. So when they asked for changes by tomorrow, I said, "ok", and sent the changes 2 hours later. When they asked if they could have colors in a week, I said, "ok", and didn't sleep so that they would have them in 4 days (at this point I had quit my day job as a designer for the Museum). And guess what, the art directors looked great in their meetings and they were really appreciative of my hard work. That's the reputation I want to have - I want to be the illustrator that will give you what you want, before you need it.
So that's where I'm at. After a year abroad, I've got some projects in the works and I'm thinking about getting my masters, but mostly I'm looking forward to really going all out and pursuing illustration with reckless abandon!
*This was my experience. Yours will be different. The field of illustration is really hard and filled with ups and downs. Keep at it, grow, learn and create - one day it'll happen. I hope everyone takes this post as intended - a soure of encouragment and information.